A brand new full-frame mirrorless camera has just entered into the game, and it comes from the German-based luxury camera brand Leica. The Leica SL (Typ 601) is a 24-megapixel camera that packs a number of interesting features within its eye-catching design such as 4.4MP EVF with 60fps refresh, 11 frames per second burst capture, internal 4K video, and touchscreen controls, so let’s take a closer look.
Starting at the heart of it all, the Leica SL uses a 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter. The ISO can be set to sensitivities ranging from 50-50,000, although the truly usable ISO range is yet to be determined. The Leica Maestro II image processor with a 2 GB buffer is used in the SL, and burst captures of 11 frames per second for up to 33 raw DNG images is possible. If you are shooting JPEG, you can fire away endlessly at that rate. The Leica SL uses a new-in-name L-mount (previously used on the T Series lenses) and its first native lens, the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, launches alongside the camera.
Autofocusing is contrast-detect based, and Leica claims it to be the fastest autofocus available in a full-frame camera. There are 49 autofocus points total, and you can utilize these in single point, field, and zone modes. With the addition of a 2.95-inch, 1.04-million-dot touchscreen LCD, you can also tap to focus where you want on the display.
The Leica doesn’t only have promising still shooting capabilities, but the inclusion of internal 4K video recording is also a good surprise. Internal 4K resolution 24fps and 30fps recordings to a memory card are sampled at 4:2:0 8-bit whereas outputting over HDMI 1.4 will grant you 4:2:2 10-bit. Shooting in 1080p Full HD you can capture up to 120fps for slow motion video. The Leica SL is also host to many other video-centric features such as V-Log L gamma, exposure simulation, zebras, safe area overlays, manual audio controls, 3.5mm headphone out, and 3.5mm mic in.
It’s hard to talk about a Leica camera without mentioning its build design and quality, and the SL looks to be no exception. Milled from two solid pieces of aluminum, the all black body looks bold and impressive. At first glance, the SL appears to be void of many physical buttons that we normally expect. This is because they are both neatly tucked in to be one with the design, and other than the on/off switch, they are unlabeled. This clean aesthetic looks beautiful, and if button customization is plentiful it makes total sense. I dislike when other manufacturers feel the need to label their buttons with specific settings when most of the time a user will be customizing it to something else entirely. I’m eager to get a hands-on with this camera to test how well the touchscreen is integrated with the shooting experience. With such a minimalistic design, I’m hoping the on-screen controls will reign in the heavy feature set and bring it all to your fingertips.
Of notable mention is the electronic viewfinder on the Leica SL; a 4.4-million dot, 60fps, 0.8x magnification viewfinder at that. For comparison, the Sony a7RII has a 2.36-million dot EVF at 0.78x magnification (and Sony just finished boasting how at 0.78x it was the world’s best). For those that have been reluctant to switch over to mirrorless over electronic viewfinder concerns, this may be the camera for you.
A few other details to add in that may interest you are its dual-slot SD slots, exposure time can be set up to 30 minutes, it's weather-sealed throughout, it has a built-in intervalometer mode for time-lapse shooting, and is Wi-Fi and GPS enabled.
As mentioned earlier, the first SL specific lens is also debuting with the camera. The Leica L-mount 24-90mm f/2.8-4 is designed for full-frame captures and features 18 elements in 15 groups. There are 11 anomalous partial dispersion elements and 4 aspherical elements to handle distortion and chromatic aberrations. The 24-90mm has 3.5-stop optical image stabilization built-in and is designed to have internal focusing plus weather sealing throughout. Lenses from Leica's other mounts, such as the T, S, M, R, and Cine series, will work with the SL via adapters.
Leica also announced two other lenses, a APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 ASPH which will be available in Q2 of 2016, and a Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH coming Q4 of 2016.
The Leica SL is priced at $7,450 and will begin shipping on November 21. You can pre-order the Leica SL and a number of accessories through B&H Photo now. The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 lens is priced at $4,950 and will also be available on November 21 with pre-orders accepted now.